A couple of nights ago I was bored, so I went to watch the new Star Trek out of morbid curiosity. I really dislike the original TV series because of its plots’ reliance in either stupid deus ex machinas or in having William Shatner always punching and kicking his way out of trouble, even if the opponent is some alien with godlike powers (Shatner therefore being a zillion times more badass than Chuck Norris, it seems). And I also dislike the work of J.J. Abrams, responsible for the success of TV series such as Lost or Alias in which all logic and coherence gets thrown out of a window, and also Cloverfield, which was entertaining (you wanted a giant monster destroying a city and you got it) but ultimately sabotaged by the worst monster creature design in history. So I was quite immune to all high and fanboyish expectations most film websites presented in the last few weeks, and it can’t be said I went to watch Star Trek with my hopes up and therefore came back disappointed, even though part of me hoped for a Batman-like reboot with an emphasis on the verisimilitude of things.
Unlike all the reviews I’ve been reading, I found Star Trek a mediocre movie — especially for people like me who enjoy hard science fiction. I’ll be plain and careless, so don’t read further if you don’t wish to read total spoilers.
If you read my review of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, you know what I hate: parallel universes. Parallel universes are cheating. It’s more than a deus ex machina, it’s an everything ex machina. But you know what else I hate? Time travel. Specially the kind of time travel that spawns alternative universes. Of course, you may say Star Trek storylines are full of that kind of thing, so why am I bitching? The answer, is that in this film I felt the whole time-travel premise exists because the producers wouldn’t allow a full revision of the Trek pantheon, therefore to appease the fanboy wackos who don’t understand movies and TV series are works of fiction, the screenwriters came up with a preposterous plot in which the original Kirk/Spock canon exists, but then Spock traveled to the past, spawning a parallel universe in which there is new-Kirk and new-Spock. I shudder to think someone earned millions by coming up with such an idea, which seems like some MadTV spoof. Trek Back to the Future?
The whole premise is bad enough. I really disliked what I’ve seen as an attempt at copying from Star Wars — the antagonist’s ship which is a Death Star with tentacles that also destroys planets. The main bad guy, Nero, is no Darth Vader. There’s a self-conscious attempt at making pop history, but there’s no great charisma to be found anywhere in this movie, something the first two Star Wars movies had, and even the original Star Trek TV series (which was charismatic in a B-movie kind of way).
Being Star Trek, there are things that never change: Kirk, Sulu and some secondary cast member go try to disable the
Death Star’s Bad Ship’s cannon, who dies? The action scenes are your typical sci-fi fare: messy space battles, lots of running around and jumping on crazy platforms to fetch some object, Kirk having fistfights in the notoriously unsafe architecture of the future. Michael Bay is the king of explosions and his films are lame entertainment, but the guy somehow coreographs crazy-paced action scenes that are quite readable. J.J. Abrams does not. Some of the visuals are compelling though, and the comic relief moments are probably the best thing in the movie.
So far, my description is pretty much of an average movie. The problem about Star Trek is that it has plenty of cringe-worthy moments in which I felt utterly embarrassed to be watching. The film starts badly: the story of how Kirk was born in an escape pod while is father sent his ship kamikaze in order to save him and his mother had one of the cheesiest directions I’ve seen since the final moments of Michael Bay’s (who else) Armageddon. But the most embarrassing thing of all happens at the films midpoint: Kirk is expelled from the Enterprise and his shuttle crash lands in a snowy planet. While looking around he is chased by some Cloverfield monster alien into a cave, and is saved in the very last minute by the Spock-from-the-future-in-another-universe, played by none other than Leonard Nimoy. If I was alone in the theatre I would’ve screamed “Foda-se!” (“what the fuck!”) out loud. The episode is stupefying beyond belief, but then brace yourself for a long exposition from future-Spock about supernovas and black holes and their potential for time travel, ending in thoughts about friendship and the assurance current-universe-Spock, an arrogant asshole who kicked Kirk off ship, is actually a good kid. It made me feel blushed and a bad taste on my mouth. Argh!
Two out of five.
Most film critics loved Star Trek. Go figure.